Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Lachrimae Pavan


Now I am old (69) I seem to live on a musical island. Long ago when music first started to excite me I would spend many hours talking to friends about different composers, players and genres. There was a wonderful world to be explored on expeditions of discovery.

Now I rarely encounter anyone who wants to talk about music, or indeed any of the fine arts, though I arguably meet more people than I did of yore. Friends either don't seem interested in music at all or have a taste for popular or commercial material written in the last few decades. I do not dislike their choice, but it seems to me rather limiting. The wonderful landscapes of folk, jazz, classical and so-called world music remain unexplored and unloved. And I now have no one to whom I can say "this is an interesting piece" with the slightest chance that they will listen to it all the way through without starting to talk about the blocked drains or the despicable neighbour.

The Internet has, however, revealed a wealth of unsung material often beautifully played and records of many of the things that have given me joy in the past. The people playing or uploading this must, I tell myself, want to talk and to listen, to pass on their passion and inspire others.

So I thought I would pick my way through my own musical life (since it is the only musical life I know) in the hope that I might be joined on the way with a few like-minded fellow-travellers who might talk with me as we used to talk and marvel together at the great creations of our fellow travellers.

I am starting this venture with the Lachrimae Pavan (the pavan of tears) by John Dowland, the English composer who lived in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, played on the guitar by Peo Kindgren. Dowland would not have known an instrument like this, but the lute was popular in his day and so was this composition of Dowland's.

I have two reasons for choosing it. A few years back someone was extolling the merits of the latest pop hit and I pointed out that I did not expect them to like Dowland's music (though I did like it), so why should they expect me to like the latest media-driven manifestation from the commercial music world. (Oh dear, I do sound like a grumpy old man).

My second reason is that Dowland's Lachrimae chimes with that famous line from Roman poet Virgil sunt lacrimae rerum; mentum mortalia tangunt which translates as something like "there are tears in things and our souls are touched by the fragility of life (mortalia)."

There are indeed tears in things and one sadness is the loss of the friendships I once thought music could forge. One day, maybe, I will understand why so many other people do not hear what I appear to hear.

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